Mummies can be found through all eras and many and diverse cultures. They range from Ginger1 to Lenin and can be found all over the globe.
What Is a Mummy?
Mummies are bodies preserved against decay, either naturally or intentionally. There are several ways of achieving the preservation - mainly by dehydration2, deep-freezing or a treatment chemicals.
How to Turn Into a Mummy
The Natural WaySimply leave the body in a very dry and preferably hot climate. Normally that's a desert. Bury it in the sand because there are hungry animals around. The body will be dehydrated naturally.
If you don't have such a desert near you, you might want to try the method used by unfortunate Arctic explorers: leave the body in the permanent frost. That is either somewhere in the Arctic or Antarctic but any high mountaintop or the Central Asian steppe will do, too.
Jumping into a moor is another nice method with a natural chemical reaction secluded from the air and thus stopping the decay of your body.
The Egytian WayEmploy an ancient Egyptian priest. He will recite some necessary prayers so you will reach the Land of the Dead more safely. He will also take out all your inner organs and then dehydrate your body using natron salt and some spices so you will smell a bit better.
The Modern WayThe latest method is having your body be dipped into a special fluid, which is something like liquid plastic. Which has the advantage you will always look fresh and not crumpled like with the above methods.3
Another way is using chemicals to stop the decaying process.
Deep-freezing in a custom built freezer is practiced, too, the best example being Lenin.There are also companies offering to deep-freeze the whole or just parts of your body.4
Reasons for Wanting to Turn Into a Mummy
There are plenty of reasons why you would want to become a mummy:
- if you believe you need your body in the afterlife like the ancient Egyptians did - but then make sure you have your Book of the Dead with you; and perhaps you should have learned some ancient Egytian in your lifetime, always makes a good impression before any god I suppose....otherwise your soul won't have a change to return to the body
- if you want to be invited around for family gatherings or tea with your friends and need your body in this world to have your soul return to (this is actually practiced today in one part of south-east Asia)
- maybe you are an important person5 and you or somebody else wants you to be adored even after you have died (Lenin again would be a good example)
- you think the future will see a cure for the disease you have now and they will then be able to raise you from the dead as well
- you might want to leave your body to science because you have such a fantastic disease and want some students to learn something from you
- or perhaps you simply want to please some archaeologist in the distant future - they will be very grateful to be able to learn something about the state of health of today's population
- but you also might be looking forward to being exhibited - either today because of medical interest or in the future because of historical interest
Or you simply don't intend to become a mummy but have no other chance.6
Where? When? How?
AfricaEgypt has undoubtedly some of the oldest and most famous of all mummies. They even mummified their holy animals. Egyptian mummies are nowadays scattered all over the world in museums. In Cairo you will find most of the Pharaos. The British Museum, London, has one of the earliest7 and quite a few others. The Egyptians developed mummifying their dead using natron sometime during the 3rd millenium B.C. and kept it on right through to the first centuries A.C. Those are the Coptic mummies.8
AsiaTo be precise Asia actually has the oldest mummies you can find today - mammoths in Siberia preserved by the frost.
Scythian mummies with tattoos under artificial mounds from over 2000 years ago. also frozen
300 year old mummies from southeast Asia - dehydrated
SouthamericaSouthamerica has quite a wide array of mummies on offer. The earliest are from the deserts on the western coast, from Paracas and Nazca. They were buried at around the birth of Christ in cloths still very colourful today. natural dehydration
Then there are the Inca mummies from the highest peaks of the Andes.9 They are children sacrificed to the mountains and are just now being found under the snow. Juanita in Arequipa is the most famous of these children. She now rests in a special freezer.
the shrink heads of the Jívaro in the Amazonian region - dehydrated Supposedly the Inca rulers themselves were mummified as well but they are no longer to be found.
Northamericaall mummies in Northamerica are frozen.
Franklin's expedition to find the north-west passage with only three bodies found so far (died of lead poisoning and were buried at the Hudson Bay)
Europebefore the Romans:Etruscan mummy
around birth of Christ: moors with people being thrown into the moors or being so unfortunate as to loose their way and sink into it
The middle ages and early modern times in Europe also saw mummies. mainly found in cellars and crypts of churches and cathedrals, e.g. some generations of priests in Italy (Sicily I believe) or some artisians and aristocrats in the town of Bremen (northern Germany). You can see some rather grey looking mummies there in the "Bleikeller" (Lead Cellar). Why they have turned into mummies is not 100% clear.
Lenin in Moscow, also kept at a low temperature and beginning to thaw....
today in Germany a pathologist who is making mummies for being studied (and exhibited)
The Curse of the Mummy
Especially with Egyptian mummies there are often stories of a curse that has the archaeologist die after having disturbed the ancient Pharao. And it is actually true that quite some people died after having found a mummy. It took modern scientists some years to work out what made the curse come true. The answer was rather simple: mould and fungi. These had developed on the mummified bodies over the millenia and then been inhaled by the discoverers. And then had worked fatal on the inner orgens or immune system.